By Rick Reeno
The WBO has informed Willie Savannah, manager of WBO/WBA/IBF lightweight champion Juan Diaz (33-0, 17KOs), of the possibility that Diaz will get stripped for not fighting WBO interim-lightweight champ Michael Katsidis (23-0, 20KOs) on February 9.
Savannah, speaking with BoxingScene.com, is speechless on why the WBO would move in that direction. The original plan was to face Katsidis on February 9, but HBO pulled the plug on the fight after Diaz’s promoter Don King sent a letter to the network, threatening legal action over the fight moving forward without his involvement.
Last year, Oscar De La Hoya won the promotional rights to Diaz-Katsidis with a purse bid entry of $1.5 million. King, who was overseas and unable to attend the purse bid, has a clause in Diaz's contract which prevents the fighter from participating in any bout where a purse bid is won by a rival promoter.
After the fight fell apart, both fighters went in separate directions. Diaz is scheduled to fight IBF mandatory Nate Campbell on the March 8 undercard to Oleg Maskaev-Samuel Peter in Cancun, Mexico. Katsidis is going to fight former champion Joel Casamayor on March 22.
“I don’t know why the WBO even would do this to Juan Diaz. Katsidis signed for another fight before we signed to fight Campbell. We wanted to fight Katsidis. It‘s not our fault the fight didn’t happen. We’ll fight Katsidis next if he beats Casamayor, and of course if Juan gets past Nate,” Savannah said.
Brendon Smith, Katsidis' trainer and manager, has been pushing the WBO to strip Diaz and elevate his fighter to the status of full champion. If the WBO follows through with their threat of stripping Diaz, then Katsidis will either be awarded the full championship or the title will be declared vacant and the fight with Casamayor will be for the vacant title.